2020: Crystal Fernandez

University of North Texas  

Crystal Fernandez is a doctoral student at the University of North Texas studying under the mentorship of Dr. Jesús Rosales-Ruiz. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she worked with children with autism as a public school teacher and as a BCBA in a clinical setting. Her research interests include the development of behavior and its stimulus control, practitioner and parent training, and increasing access to services for traditionally underserved populations. The Bijou Grant will support her project examining the role of pointing in the development of bidirectional naming for children with autism.


Bidirectional naming, or the ability to learn names of items without direct instruction, is considered a developmental cusp. Bidirectional naming in itself requires many prerequisite skills, and thus programming for this repertoire typically occurs long after a child begins intervention. The delay is due to the assumption that a particular degree of listener and speaker repertoires is necessary before the two repertoires can join. Although many prerequisite skills have been identified, no studies have examined the role of pointing in the development of bidirectional naming.


Current behavior analytic procedures typically describe pointing in terms of a listener response or in terms of a request. In contrast, Horne and Lowe (1996) describe a parent-child interaction in which a child initiates a verbal episode through pointing. In this description, the child’s pointing is indicative of speaker behavior to begin a social interaction. This is supported by child development research that suggests pointing is a way for children to begin verbal interactions with others, and thus is an important milestone in language development (Goldin-Meadow, 2007; Colonnesi, Stams, Koster, & Noom, 2010).


The current study asks if teaching pointing as a speaker can accelerate the teaching of bidirectional naming to children who begin with fewer prerequisite skills. The incidental learning of new words will be evaluated within the instructional setting and within the natural environment. Participants will be recruited across three groups with various levels of speaker and listener repertoires. This study will have implications for designing teaching protocols, particularly for children who do not make adequate progress with established protocols.


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